Park City, Utah -- For the third year in a row, I'll be here at the Sundance Film Festival covering some of the biggest music-oriented films, and some of the soundtracks and scores to come from others featuring standout artists.
There are plenty of musicians touring through, as well, with help from returning sponsors, for after-parties and launch events. For instance, it'd be hard not to make "Party Rock Anthem" the prom-like theme to this year's 2012 Sundance Film Festival. LMFAO will be making 2,549 appearances this week, plus are launching a fashion line. I want you to be looking forward to my interview with Redfoo this week, and look damn hard.
But, no, the strength of some of the Sundance film selections will make for an ultimate, complete soundtrack and score to the week.
Lucky for me, some flicks focus in on some of my favorite artists, eras and albums...
"Under African Skies" has Joe Berlinger behind the lens; his 2004 documentary on Metallica, "Some Kind of Monster," had my face on the heels of my hands, riveted with the storytelling on a band whose lives outside of their albums lost my interest many moons before.
Berlinger's new subject matter -- the 25th anniversary of Paul Simon's "Graceland" -- won't be as much of an uphill battle for me. I consider that 1986 album to be in my top five of all time, if not No. 1 for each revisit; its coming-together in South Africa came during a tumultuous time in apartheid history, particularly coming from such an influential artist who was firmly embracing native musics from black Africans.
The promise here is a "Graceland" reunion concert. I'll be singing along, and hoping for any, um, insight into the dispute over the origins of "All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints."
The "Graceland" legacy bled over into the documentary "Searching for Sugar Man," which premiered last night, with one of its subjects quoting a line from "Boy in the Bubble": "These truly are the days of miracle and wonder."
"Wonder" is an apt emotional response to the film, which kicked off the fest last night. In this internet age, it's difficult to imagine a musical mystery so pure and strange as Detroit-bred singer-songwriter Rodriguez' unknown past. It, too, takes us to the shores of South Africa (and is one of several movies at Sundance that pulls at the seams of Detroit).
I'll be writing more on the music of Rodriguez and the never-ending tale of royalty mismanagement and music industry chest-puffery later this weekend, but for now it's best for fest-goers to mark down 4:40 p.m. MST on Monday (Jan. 23) to go to the ASCAP Cafe to hear the myth and the man Rodriguez perform live.
While Rodriguez' obscurity has yet to afford him recognition in his home country, the story of LCD Soundsystem's dissolution last year was a disappearance by choice. James Murphy co-produces the film on his own band in "Shut Up and Play the Hits," which chronicles LCD's last days (and day after). Everybody always talks about the merits of quitting while you're ahead -- Murphy actually did it.
Check out the trailer to "Shut Up and Play the Hits" here. Count on many minutes of the Madison Square Garden finale, but certainly not all three-plus hours.
Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Caz, Nas, Mos Def, Eminem, Chuck D, KRS-One, Run-DMC, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg are all on the guest list of doc "Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap," with Ice-T leading the way. I imagine it will be a difficult narrative jaunt, to cover the launch of the American art form through so many generations and iterations.
However, it does seem to be a continuation of Sundance's love affair with hip-hop, a trend best seen through last year's lineup (with standout A Tribe Called Quest doc from Mike Rappaport). A new feature this year, "Filly Brown," is a fictionalized story, but one retelling "sleazy record producer" story of crawling toward hip-hop stardom. I'm seeing another trend.
Composer Reza Safinia is back at Sundance again this year with "Filly Brown," and you can check his stuff here. I'm also eager to hear what fest veterans Fall on Your Sword ("Another Earth") have done on "Nobody Walks." The dauntingly titled "I Am Not a Hipster" has the potential of yielding acclaim for songwriter Joel P. West, whose tracks will lie at the center of Dominic Bogart's "tortured artist" character Brook.
The film has already bowed at Cannes, but I'm still intrigued to see Sean Penn take on the persona of a middle-aged rock star whose aesthetic tips its hat to Robert Smith in "This Must Be the Place." I'm even more excited to hear the soundtrack and score from Will Oldham (aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy), may he live for a thousand years.
Besides those, I'm looking forward to music and scores from Mike Shinoda (in "The Raid"), Yo La Tengo ("Smashed"), Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips ("Price Check"), the Red Hot Organization's Stuart Bogie and Luke O'Malley taking on Arthur Russell ("How to Survive a Plague") and T Bone Burnett combining with the Civil Wars ("Finding North").